The language of Brexit, or why words matter

Dimitrios E. Akrivoulis
2019 Punctum International Journal of Semiotics  
Steve Buckledee 2018. The Language of Brexit: How Britain Talked Its Way Out of the European Union. London: Bloomsbury, vi+231pp., £60 (HB), ISBN: 978 -1-3500-4797-6 Brexit entered the Oxford English Dictionary in December 2016, six months after the infamous referendum, in which a marginal majority voted for the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU). The June 2016 referendum was followed by the formal governmental announcement of the country's withdrawal in March 2017, initiating
more » ... the Brexit process due to conclude no later than January 2020. Admittedly, Brexit debates reinforced the old divide between Eurosceptics and pro-Europeanists, now addressed as leavers and remainers with both sides spanning the whole of the political spectrum. Most crucially, that was not the first time Brits were asked about their country's connection to the EU. The prelude of this uneasy relation was also marked by a referendum. Two years after the UK entry to the European Economic Community (EEC), its membership was endorsed in the 1975 referendum, promised by the Labour Party's manifesto for the upcoming general election. The country's relation to Europe was thus marked, right from the beginning. by the 'people's voice', a memory that quite predictably resurfaced with the debates on Brexit (i.e. the 2011 cross-party People's Pledge campaign). Even those least acquainted with British politics are well aware that Euroscepticism has historically been far from a distinctive feature of the Conservative rationale. In the 1970s and 1980s, for example, withdrawal from the EC was mostly advocated by the Left and was even part of the Labour Party's 1983 election manifesto. The beginning of the end of this uneasy relation should be traced back in the early 1990s, when the EU's founding Maastricht Treaty (1992) was not put to a referendum in the UK. Eurosceptics in the Conservative Party fiercely opposed to the ratification of the treaty. The rise of right-wing populism and the formation of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in 1993 capitalised reactions and reinforced Euroscepticism. As Tory unity was put at stake Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, himself a remainer, eventually opted to invest more in saving his party than guaranteeing his country's future in the EU, by deciding to hold a referendum on continued EU membership.
doi:10.18680/hss.2019.0031 fatcat:rmfw2glpxfay5dwbowi6gxenny